October 18, 2009

Acclaimed Belarus Free Theatre debuts in Washington, D.C.

“72 percent of Belarussians find it difficult to define the word "democracy."

Belarus holds 186th place out of 195 countries in the degree of freedom of the press. And is on the list of 13 countries - enemies of the Internet.”

From Numbers, the third part of Zone of Silence, by Belarus Free Theatre.

Making a splash around Belarus and Europe, Belarus Free Theatre presents two of its most controversial plays in D.C.

Since its founding in 2005 in Europe's last surviving dictatorship, Belarus Free Theatre has been giving memorable performances in apartments, bars, and other private locations, alerting audiences to the location of performances and time — often the middle of the day — through text messages and e-mail. The husband-and-wife team of Nikolai Khalezin and Natalya Koliada and director Vladimir Scherban created the company as a means to resist government censorship and have garnered praise from around the world for their powerful message and visceral, dynamic aesthetic.

“Drama doesn’t come more urgently political than in the work of the Belarus Free Theatre,” noted The Times. Renowned playwright Tom Stoppard has praised their “marvelous work,” noting that “What I saw in Minsk is much closer to a true theatre, to its sources, to its true objective,” and Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter has said, “They’re bringing back the essence meaning of the theatre.”

The Georgetown University Theater and Performance Studies Program, in association with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and in cooperation with the We Remember Civil Initiative, brings to the city this underground troupe, banned in its home country of Belarus, that will perform “Generation Jeans” on Sept. 15 and “Discover Love” on Sept. 16. Both “Generation Jeans” and “Discover Love” are underscored by a soundtrack from DJ Laurel (Lavr Berzhanin) and performed in Russian with subtitles.“Generation Jeans” is a play about a freedom fighter’s semi-autobiographical monologue which details growing up as a member of the counterculture that regarded jeans and Western pop music as a symbol of rebellion.

“Discover Love” is a play, based on the true story of Irina Krasovskaya, whose husband Anatoly, a businessman who supported the Belarus opposition movement, was kidnapped and murdered. This performance takes place exactly 10 years after Anatoly and Victor Gonchar, the Vice-Speaker of the Belarusian Parliament, disappeared on Sept. 16, 1999.

("Discover Love")

Described as a love story, “Discover Love” explores the reflections of a woman who finds out her husband has been kidnapped and murdered. Following the initial shock of the tragedy, her thoughts turn to words left unsaid, dreams unrealized. The work intermingles the experience of the widow Krasovskaya with that of similar stories of women from Asia, South America and Latin America.

For “Discover Love” and the troupe’s previous activities, Belarus Free Theatre received the French Republic Human Rights Prize in 2007, marking the first time in the history of the prize that it was awarded to a cultural institution. Collection of materials for the piece took nine years, and the play launched an artistic campaign to support the UN Convention against enforced disappearances in the world.

Ms. Krasovskaya, who is now based in Washington, D.C., co-founded We Remember, a civil initiative that disseminates information about politically motivated disappearances of Belarusisan citizens and informs the world community about the situation. A memorial reception organized by Krasovskya follows the Sept. 16 premiere.

When: Sept. 15-16, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Davis Performing Arts Center, Devine Studio Theatre
(37th and O Streets, NW – Washington, D.C.)
Tickets: $12 general; $10 faculty/staff/senior (65 or older); and $5 student. To order, click here, or call (202) 687-ARTS (2787).

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